Animals in Agriculture in Japan

October 9, 2021Lu Shegay


The Japanese agricultural sector accounts for less than 1.3% of the country’s GDP, and farming in Japan focuses on crop production. The statistics show that using animals in agriculture plays a minor role in agricultural activities. The dairy and beef industry in Japan is valued at over $10 billion. It is estimated that there are 4.56 million cattle, 9.61 million pigs, 294 million chickens, and 11,000 sheep in the country. In 2019, more than 182 million egg-laying hens were kept at farms in Japan, making layers the most commonly raised animal type within the Japanese livestock farming industry.

"White Chicken in Tilt Shift Lens" by Animals in Agriculture in Japan

Farmed Animals in Japan

Using animals used in agriculture has a great impact on animals in the first place because of the treatment of these living beings on the factory farms, unnecessary slaughter, abusive practices, providing harmful and hazardous jobs to the employees, and the impact on the entire planet.

Animals are kept in horrific conditions almost everywhere in the world, Japan is not the exception. Pigs spend almost all of their entire lives in small cages where they are not even able to turn around. Keeping animals in captivity - not only farmed but also those who are kept in captivity for entertainment purposes - has proven abnormal behavior because of the stress they are experiencing. For instance, sows express their distress by biting their cages, continuously doing chewing motions without food in their mouths, and drinking water non-stop. A lot of countries have already banned sow stalls, such as the European Union and several states in the United States of America. Other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, strictly regulate sow stalls. But sow stalls continue to increase and develop in Japan.

Similarly, chickens are kept in filthy and crowded battery cages where they are crammed together and are not able to spread their wings, which is natural to them. While over 250 companies across the globe announced their termination of using battery cages, almost all eggs sold at Japanese stores are coming from chicken farms where chickens are not treated even close to well. So far, none of the Japanese poultry companies have decided to stop using battery cages.

Nevertheless, even though killing animals for the purposes of food consumption may not be justified, the treatment of animals in Japanese factory farms leaves a horrific impression.

"White Pigs on Green Grass" by Alina Kovalchuk from Pexels

Legal Protection

Japan has the Act on Welfare and Management, where the provisions of anti-cruelty and obligations to care to apply to farmed animals. However, it is not explicitly specified in the Act that farmed animals are protected from cruel practices, such as on factory farms and locally owned farms. Art. 44 of the Act only provides that cruel treatment to animals included in the Act is penalized with criminal liability. Art. 7(4) of the Act states that the Minister may create standards to be complied with regarding the care and keeping of animals, after the consultation with the heads of relevant administrative organs.

Guidance was also produced under the Act, which includes the Standards related to the Care and Keeping of Industrial Animals (Notification No. 22 of 1987, produced by the Prime Minister’s Office in collaboration with the Japan Livestock Technology Association and in support by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fireshies, and Forestry), which serves as a guide on the ways of treatment of farmed animals and also includes the recommendations on hygiene at farms, avoiding animal abuse and transportation of animals.

Japan lacks the provisions on the regulation of rearing pigs, broiler chickens, egg-laying hens, and the transportation of animals. As for the slaughter, Art. 40 of the Act provides that in the case when the animal shall be killed, such a method shall be used that would minimize as much as possible pain and distress to this animal. Standards that relate to the Methods of Destruction of Animals (Notification No. 40 of 1995 by the Prime Minister’s Office), provide further details on animal slaughter. The Standards require that all methods of slaughter minimize the pain or distress to animals and must be in line with other standards such as Standards relating to the Care and Keeping of Industrial Animals.

Nevertheless, despite the regulations, a horrific undercover investigation was revealed at one of the factory farms in Japan. The video of Japan’s leading pork producer, Nippon Ham, exposed that piglets and their mothers endure horrific abuse. While the company claims to care about human happiness and the “joy of eating,” it’s obviously not concerned about animal welfare. Pigs who are raised and killed for food don’t experience joy or anything else that would make their lives worth living.

“Their lives are full of pain and suffering. Workers at Nippon Ham grab piglets by their sensitive ears and toss them around like inanimate objects. Those who aren’t considered “profitable,” because they’re too small or sick, are thrown out like garbage. Workers typically kill unwanted piglets by swinging them in the air and bashing their heads on the concrete floor or by injecting them in the heart with surface disinfectant. One piglet writhed in agony for five minutes after a worker poisoned him this way. Another languished for an hour and finally died after a worker bashed his head against the concrete floor.

Piglets at Nippon Ham are taken away from their mothers when they’re as young as 22 days old, just as they are on most pig farms. Workers castrate them and chop their tails off without any pain relievers. A worker was caught on camera cutting into a young pig’s scrotum and yanking out his testicles with his fingers.”

There are thousands of sows that are confined and repeatedly raped via artificial insemination. They deliver litter after litter of piglets, who are always torn away from them to be raised for meat or breeding. When sows who are not forced to live on filthy factory farms are about to give birth, they make a nest in the dirt and cover it with soft grass and leaves. But at Nippon Ham, pregnant pigs have to stand on uncomfortable metal grates. After several years of round-the-clock imprisonment and frequent inseminations and pregnancies, they become exhausted and they’re sent to slaughter.

"Kobe cow" by is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Thousands of animals are crowded in factory farms, and they endure unnecessary cruelty, stress, pain, suffering, and slaughter. There is always a way to stop this abusive and surplus practice by going plant-based. Going plant-based will not only save animals, but it will also reduce the demand for animal products, save many other animals who are suffering from the consequences of the climate crisis, and preserve the entire planet that is in danger now. Scientists report that every pound of methane is more than 84 times as effective as CO2 is at trapping heat in our atmosphere. Burning oil and gasoline releases CO2, the primary gas responsible for the climate crisis. Producing 1 calorie from animal protein requires 11 times as much fossil fuel input - releasing 11 times as much carbon dioxide - as does produce 1 calorie from plant protein. Going vegan is the simplest and easiest way to end the cruel practice of animal exploitation.

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